By Lyn Mikel BrownAs philosopher Peggy McIntosh, historian Howard Zinn, and others remind us, the history taught in school is told from the perspective of those in power, and for the most part this version has “left out the female half of humankind, and excluded the knowledge of most people of color worldwide about their own cultures and their versions of history.” It also deemphasizes how women, working people, and people of color have worked together within organized social movements to shape history. If social change “is made not by a few heroic individuals, but instead by people’s choices and actions,” as the Zinn Education Project website proclaims, then our “own choices and actions matter.”
A Q&A with Eileen PollackMany science professors think that they treat their male and female students equally. But studies have shown that they actually encourage white male students in subtle (and not so subtle) ways, while subtly discouraging women. And society itself discourages women and minorities through the images and signals that our culture constantly is sending out.
By Ashlyn EdwardsGrowing up, I was very awkward, very smart, and very un-feminist. If you had asked me at thirteen what I thought of feminism, I would have recited some hackneyed cultural stereotype about bra-burners and told you that gender equality was achieved when women won the right to vote—mostly because I had hardly learned anything about feminism in school. It wasn’t until I was seventeen and started following feminist bloggers that I began to understand that many of my deepest insecurities and feelings of inferiority were actually the byproducts of structural inequality and internalized sexism.
By Deborah Jiang-SteinIn our fame machine culture of “Look at me, look at me!” where fame is marketed as a drug of choice, we’re consumed by the notion that the only light worth seeking is the limelight. I recently had the privilege to witness another way to hold the light. With Gloria Steinem at my side last spring, we entered the state prison for women in Minnesota to share a tour and speaking engagement. She was in Minnesota on a generous acceptance when I invited her to a fundraiser for the nonprofit I founded, the unPrison Project, so that we could raise funds to reach the thirty-one states that have requested my speaking and our programming into their women’s prisons.
By Lynn HallThe wilderness is where I continuously re-establish my present-day safety. Here I reduce my survival to basics: Have I had enough to eat? Where will I find more water? Can I stay warm enough or cool enough? Even in these untamed places—with bears and snakes, lightning, cliffs and exposed ledges—I prove again and again that I am no longer the girl of my past. I reconnect with my most true self who has grown into her strength and confidence. I know my past is behind me.
By Melinda ChateauvertHysteria Alert! We’re heading into another international sporting event, so the predictable, hysterical, and utterly fantastical stories about international sex trafficking are on the rise. We heard this claptrap about “sex tourism” two years ago when Brazil hosted the World Cup, when some NGOs claimed “40,000” women and girls would be involved. Time Magazine’s numbers were moderate compared to the exaggerations made by others. They claimed 250,000 children would be working the streets during the tournament—or one in every sixty-eight adolescent girls in the country.
By Melinda ChateauvertThree decades before “Nothing about us, without us” became the axiom for policymaking by the sex workers’ rights movement, the national prostitutes’ rights organization COYOTE conducted a “Prostitute Study” which demonstrated that community-based participatory research had the power to revolutionize scientific paradigms. At the start of the AIDS epidemic, almost no one used community-based research to study critical health issues. But San Francisco sex workers, working as peer researchers interviewing and testing marginalized women like themselves, mapped the epidemiology of HIV in 1985. This forgotten study by sex workers on HIV/AIDS was an essential element of their political activism, using evidence-based research for making public policy, designing future medical research and changing public attitudes about the sex industry.
A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian LeeRev. Elizabeth Edman: Queer people model a kind of courage that is very similar to what Christians are supposed to model. Christians could learn a lot about who we Christians are supposed to be simply by paying attention to queer lives and queer experience, and this is a prime moment for Christians to listen hard to what LGBTQ people are made of.
By Ashlyn EdwardsAs a publicity intern with Beacon Press this summer, the first new book I was given the opportunity to read was Entwined: Sisters and Secrets in the Silent World of Judith Scott, in which author Joyce Scott tells the story of her fraternal twin sister, Judith, an acclaimed fiber artist who was deaf and born with Down syndrome. I was repeatedly struck by how Joyce beautifully captured resonant images from her life and her bond with her sister, despite the many hardships they faced. Joyce recounts their separation at age seven when Judy was institutionalized, their reunion thirty-five years later, and afterwards, Judy’s success as an internationally-known artist.
A Conversation with Reverend Elizabeth M. Edman and Deborah Jian LeeDeborah Jian Lee: For Rescuing Jesus, I’m speaking to a range of people including Evangelicals, ex-Evangelicals, progressive Christians, the spiritual but not religious, and the Nones, who don’t ascribe to any particular religion. I write about those on the margins of Evangelicalism, namely people of color, women, and LGBTQ Christians. Oftentimes people from these communities feel disqualified from the faith and feel like they must choose between their faith and other important aspects of their identity.
By Carole Joffe“(I)t is beyond rational belief that H.B.2 could genuinely protect the health of women, and certain that the law ‘would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions.’” So wrote Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in her concurrent opinion with the 5-3 majority in the landmark case, Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstadt.
By Ginny Gilder“I don’t mind being gay, but I’m never gonna fly that rainbow flag,” I protested to my girlfriend, Lynn. We were on a California beach near Santa Cruz celebrating my friend Camille’s fiftieth birthday, a group of a dozen lesbians, most of whom were dancing, clapping, prancing around the beach with big rainbow flags held high. Lynn and I stood on the edge of the group, shoulders hunched, our hands noticeably empty of any sticks hoisting multi-colored fabric, thrust deep in our pants pockets.
By Haley StaffordThis year, my class took part in National History Day, a program for middle-school students to put together a project on a historical topic of interest. I didn’t have a clue as to what I wanted to research. All I knew was that the theme was “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.” My teacher noticed my struggle and recommended I read Thousand Pieces of Gold by Ruthanne Lum McCunn. This biographical novel instantly had me hooked on Polly Bemis, born Lalu Nathoy, a Chinese-American Pioneer woman who encountered great hardships, explored new ideas and roles on the American frontier, and exchanged her hardships for generosity.
By Melinda ChateauvertOver the last week and before the print edition appeared, Emily Bazelon’s cover story “Should Prostitution be a Crime?” for the New York Times Magazine, sex workers and their allies were sharing and discussing it widely through Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. I was thrilled to see people I know, activists I’ve admired and worked with, being given a national platform to have their say. This was and is a phenomenal media moment for the sex workers’ rights movement.
According to the Center for Disease Control and RAINN (Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network), one in five women have experienced completed or attempted rape, and about three percent of American men—or one in thirty-three—have experienced an attempted or completed rape in their lifetime. Most victims first experienced sexual violence before age twenty-five. Statistics, however, only paint part of the picture, as most victims do not share or report these crimes to their family, friends, or the police.
A Q&A with Erika JanikHappy publication day to Erika Janik and her new book Pistols and Petticoats: 175 Years of Lady Detectives in Fact and Fiction! Pistols and Petticoats is a lively exploration of the struggles women have faced in law enforcement and in mystery fiction since the late nineteenth century. Working in a profession considered to be strictly a man’s domain, investigating women were nearly always at odds with society. These sleuths and detectives refused to let that stop them, and paved the way to a modern professional life for women on the force and in popular culture. We caught up with Janik to ask her about the social implications of women joining the police force, “murder as entertainment,” and how the reality of policewomen compares with the stories told in the crime genre.
By Carole JoffeIn a story that has remarkable relevance for today’s reproductive wars, on March 22, 1929, the New York City Police Department sent an undercover female detective to a birth control clinic run by Margaret Sanger. Detective Anna McNamara received an examination and and was told by the examining physician of several pelvic disorders. Strikingly, even though she had obtained the necessary evidence that the clinic was providing then-illegal birth control services, McNamara returned to the clinic several times for follow-up visits.
A Q&A with Andrea RitchiePublic awareness of police brutality is growing, spurred by stories about individual Black men who have been murdered by police across the country. But Black women and women of color have been rendered largely invisible in discussions about state-sanctioned violence, even though they too are targeted and killed by police officers. What can we learn from their experiences of injustice, and from their resistance and activism? Black lesbian police misconduct attorney and organizer Andrea Ritchie, co-author of Say Her Name: Resisting Police Violence Against Black Women and Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States, takes on these issues in her forthcoming book, Invisible No More, due out next spring. With Women’s History Month still fresh in our mind, we caught up with Ritchie to ask what to expect in her eye-opening account.
By Laura A. JacobsTo pee or not to pee: That is the question facing transgender and gender nonconforming people in North Carolina. I first wrote on this a year ago when only a few states were considering anti-transgender bathroom statutes which seemed unlikely to pass. In hindsight, that time seems almost quaint. Now North Carolina and other states are enacting legislation that criminalize transgender and gender nonconforming people for using the bathroom aligned with their identity and/or expression. Behind the rationalizations are two main goals: to scapegoat us for political power, and to punish our community’s nonconformity by creating an environment in which it is impossible—or at least extremely challenging—for transgender and gender nonconforming people to survive.
What sacrifices does a Pakistani wife have to make while living under a military dictatorship? Why are there still so few women working in the hard sciences? Which historically misunderstood workforce forged alliances with activists in the women’s rights and black freedom movements? The answers lie in the books we are featuring this year during Women’s History Month, which explore and applaud the contributions women have made—through survival, activism, trailblazing—to history. Ranging from the individual voice of memoir to the joint voices of the collective biography, their narratives ring out with equal intensity.